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Month: March 2018

Guest Post: Fighting for the Health of Women, Children and Community in Guatemala – Access to Health Care #Marchis4Nutrition

In honor of National Nutrition Month in March, 1,000 Days is amplifying the critical role the world’s mothers play in nourishing the next generation through our annual online #Marchis4Nutrition campaign. Throughout the month, we will also be highlighting stories from our partners. Follow along and get involved on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #Marchis4Nutrition.

The National Alliance of Indigenous Women for Reproductive Health (ALIANMISAR) consists of more than 90 organizations and actively participates in citizen monitoring, advocacy, and policy dialogue to promote better, more culturally-appropriate health services that are accessible to the indigenous populations, especially those living in rural areas and in poverty.

Vitalina de Leon Santos is a member of ALIANMISAR in Guatemala. This is her story.

My name is Vitalina de León Santos, I am 45 years old, married to Miguel Ajxup, a construction laborer, I live in the municipality of Momostenango, department of Totonicapán, Guatemala. I am the mother of two girls and a boy. The health of my children is my priority and although my family have scarce resources, I try to give them as much care as possible following the recommendations of the health services.

In 2012, municipality residents encouraged me to join the National Alliance of Indigenous Women for Reproductive Health (ALIANMISAR), which supports the HP+ project with USAID funds, to fight for our reproductive rights. In this organization, I have been involved in the training process that helped me to become aware, first of all, of the need to value myself as a woman and of the importance of my children’s health care. Since I became pregnant with my last daughter, Astrid Mireya Yulisa Ajxup de León 5 years ago, I took everything I learned into account and during my pregnancy I attended the health center to receive prenatal care where I was provided with iron and folic acid which I consumed with full knowledge of its importance. After the birth of Astrid, I gave her exclusive breastfeeding from the first hour of birth until she was 6 months old. I fed myself with cereals and stimulating herbs so that I had enough milk and my daughter was well nourished. After the six months, I have always tried to give her a healthy and nutritious diet.  I also attended the Health Center so that my daughter had her complete immunization schedule, vitamins and deworming medications.

My daughter is 4 years old now and I am very proud because I believe that these efforts have results in her good health, since she has not been malnourished and has not become ill, despite the fact that in my community many children are suffering malnutrition (The chronic malnutrition rate in children under 5 is 52% in Momostenango Municipality, one of the highest in the country).

Now, as ALIANMISAR municipal coordinator, I participate in the meetings of the Municipal Commission for Food and Nutritional Security of Children and Adolescents, as well as the Municipal Development Council, which allows us to advocate for the approval of projects that benefit the health of our people.   This is the case of the extension of the municipal capital health center for weight and height monitoring, which was requested to the municipality in 2017 and is currently being built.

I have also become a counselor about the upbringing and feeding of children in my community, visiting mothers to share the knowledge acquired in ALIANMISAR.

The ALIANMISAR is an organization of indigenous women that ensures compliance with reproductive rights and nutrition, with cultural relevance, through advocacy, monitoring and policy dialogue to promote the formulation and implementation of public policies that contribute to reducing maternal mortality and chronic malnutrition in Guatemala.

#Marchis4Nutrition: What if moms had access to quality and comprehensive healthcare?

In honor of National Nutrition Month, 1,000 Days is running its annual #Marchis4Nutrition campaign to amplify the critical role the world’s mothers play in nourishing the next generation. During the coming weeks, we will be imagining a world in which moms have the support they need to give their children a healthy start to life. This week we’re asking:

What if moms had access to quality and comprehensive healthcare (before, during and after pregnancy)?

A world in which moms have access to quality and comprehensive healthcare is one where every child and mother survives and thrives.

Without comprehensive coverage that includes, maternity care, childbirth and pediatric services, a woman and her baby do not receive the health services they need. In turn, they are put at greater risk for serious problems including low birthweight, preterm birth, and even death.

In the U.S. and around the world, access to healthcare is vital to reduce the number of deaths related to childbirth. The United States has the worst rate of maternal deaths among wealthy countries. According to a joint ProPublica and NPR investigation, between 700-900 women in America die each year from childbirth or pregnancy related conditions. Sadly, many of these deaths could have been prevented with better care.

In low- and middle-income countries, 1 in 5 babies is born too small (with a low birth weight) resulting in 20% of newborn deaths. Again, having access to proper healthcare before, during and after pregnancy could reduce the infant death rate.

“If moms had access to affordable and quality prenatal care, more moms would survive childbirth and be free from lifelong injuries.”
David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World

Whether they are expecting a baby or not, all women and their families need comprehensive healthcare from a hospital, healthcare provider or community health center. Once a woman becomes pregnant she also needs healthcare coverage for maternity care, breastfeeding services (including counseling and supplies), nutrition education, folic acid supplements and weight management during pregnancy, as well as health screenings for conditions such as anemia, gestational diabetes and post-partum depression.

“Since I became pregnant with my last daughter… I took everything I learned into account and during my pregnancy I attended the health center to receive prenatal care where I was provided with iron and folic acid which I consumed with full knowledge of its importance,”
Vitalina de Leon Santos, ALIANMISAR in Guatemala, read her full story here.

We also need to invest in ensuring healthcare is high-quality and meeting the needs of a community. More trained healthcare workers and better facilities save lives. This requires national policies and guidelines and strong leadership at country-level to prioritize the strengthening of health systems. This also requires healthcare to be affordable. Each year, nearly 100 million people worldwide are pushed into extreme poverty because they must pay for health expenses out of their own pockets.

Moms shouldn’t have to choose between health or poverty. They shouldn’t have to choose between their own health or their child’s health. They shouldn’t have to choose between seeking health treatment or eating nutritious foods. In a world where moms have access to high-quality and comprehensive healthcare (before, during and after pregnancy), these are not choices that they would have to make.

Join the #Marchis4Nutrition conversation on Facebook and Twitter this month and tell us what you think: What does the world look like if moms have access to quality and comprehensive healthcare?

Guest Post: Fighting for the Health of Women, Children and Community in Guatemala – Access to Health Care #Marchis4Nutrition

In honor of National Nutrition Month in March, 1,000 Days is amplifying the critical role the world’s mothers play in nourishing the next generation through our annual online #Marchis4Nutrition campaign. Throughout the month, we will also be highlighting stories from our partners. Follow along and get involved on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #Marchis4Nutrition.

The National Alliance of Indigenous Women for Reproductive Health (ALIANMISAR) consists of more than 90 organizations and actively participates in citizen monitoring, advocacy, and policy dialogue to promote better, more culturally-appropriate health services that are accessible to the indigenous populations, especially those living in rural areas and in poverty.

Vitalina de Leon Santos is a member of ALIANMISAR in Guatemala. This is her story.

My name is Vitalina de León Santos, I am 45 years old, married to Miguel Ajxup, a construction laborer, I live in the municipality of Momostenango, department of Totonicapán, Guatemala. I am the mother of two girls and a boy. The health of my children is my priority and although my family have scarce resources, I try to give them as much care as possible following the recommendations of the health services.

In 2012, municipality residents encouraged me to join the National Alliance of Indigenous Women for Reproductive Health (ALIANMISAR), which supports the HP+ project with USAID funds, to fight for our reproductive rights. In this organization, I have been involved in the training process that helped me to become aware, first of all, of the need to value myself as a woman and of the importance of my children’s health care. Since I became pregnant with my last daughter, Astrid Mireya Yulisa Ajxup de León 5 years ago, I took everything I learned into account and during my pregnancy I attended the health center to receive prenatal care where I was provided with iron and folic acid which I consumed with full knowledge of its importance. After the birth of Astrid, I gave her exclusive breastfeeding from the first hour of birth until she was 6 months old. I fed myself with cereals and stimulating herbs so that I had enough milk and my daughter was well nourished. After the six months, I have always tried to give her a healthy and nutritious diet.  I also attended the Health Center so that my daughter had her complete immunization schedule, vitamins and deworming medications.

My daughter is 4 years old now and I am very proud because I believe that these efforts have results in her good health, since she has not been malnourished and has not become ill, despite the fact that in my community many children are suffering malnutrition (The chronic malnutrition rate in children under 5 is 52% in Momostenango Municipality, one of the highest in the country).

Now, as ALIANMISAR municipal coordinator, I participate in the meetings of the Municipal Commission for Food and Nutritional Security of Children and Adolescents, as well as the Municipal Development Council, which allows us to advocate for the approval of projects that benefit the health of our people.   This is the case of the extension of the municipal capital health center for weight and height monitoring, which was requested to the municipality in 2017 and is currently being built.

I have also become a counselor about the upbringing and feeding of children in my community, visiting mothers to share the knowledge acquired in ALIANMISAR.

The ALIANMISAR is an organization of indigenous women that ensures compliance with reproductive rights and nutrition, with cultural relevance, through advocacy, monitoring and policy dialogue to promote the formulation and implementation of public policies that contribute to reducing maternal mortality and chronic malnutrition in Guatemala.

#Marchis4Nutrition: What if moms had access to quality and comprehensive healthcare?

In honor of National Nutrition Month, 1,000 Days is running its annual #Marchis4Nutrition campaign to amplify the critical role the world’s mothers play in nourishing the next generation. During the coming weeks, we will be imagining a world in which moms have the support they need to give their children a healthy start to life. This week we’re asking:

What if moms had access to quality and comprehensive healthcare (before, during and after pregnancy)?

A world in which moms have access to quality and comprehensive healthcare is one where every child and mother survives and thrives.

Without comprehensive coverage that includes, maternity care, childbirth and pediatric services, a woman and her baby do not receive the health services they need. In turn, they are put at greater risk for serious problems including low birthweight, preterm birth, and even death.

In the U.S. and around the world, access to healthcare is vital to reduce the number of deaths related to childbirth. The United States has the worst rate of maternal deaths among wealthy countries. According to a joint ProPublica and NPR investigation, between 700-900 women in America die each year from childbirth or pregnancy related conditions. Sadly, many of these deaths could have been prevented with better care.

In low- and middle-income countries, 1 in 5 babies is born too small (with a low birth weight) resulting in 20% of newborn deaths. Again, having access to proper healthcare before, during and after pregnancy could reduce the infant death rate.

“If moms had access to affordable and quality prenatal care, more moms would survive childbirth and be free from lifelong injuries.”
David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World

Whether they are expecting a baby or not, all women and their families need comprehensive healthcare from a hospital, healthcare provider or community health center. Once a woman becomes pregnant she also needs healthcare coverage for maternity care, breastfeeding services (including counseling and supplies), nutrition education, folic acid supplements and weight management during pregnancy, as well as health screenings for conditions such as anemia, gestational diabetes and post-partum depression.

“Since I became pregnant with my last daughter… I took everything I learned into account and during my pregnancy I attended the health center to receive prenatal care where I was provided with iron and folic acid which I consumed with full knowledge of its importance,”
Vitalina de Leon Santos, ALIANMISAR in Guatemala, read her full story here.

We also need to invest in ensuring healthcare is high-quality and meeting the needs of a community. More trained healthcare workers and better facilities save lives. This requires national policies and guidelines and strong leadership at country-level to prioritize the strengthening of health systems. This also requires healthcare to be affordable. Each year, nearly 100 million people worldwide are pushed into extreme poverty because they must pay for health expenses out of their own pockets.

Moms shouldn’t have to choose between health or poverty. They shouldn’t have to choose between their own health or their child’s health. They shouldn’t have to choose between seeking health treatment or eating nutritious foods. In a world where moms have access to high-quality and comprehensive healthcare (before, during and after pregnancy), these are not choices that they would have to make.

Join the #Marchis4Nutrition conversation on Facebook and Twitter this month and tell us what you think: What does the world look like if moms have access to quality and comprehensive healthcare?

Imagining bold. Imagining better.

This International Women’s Day will see no shortage of bold women speaking out and speaking up for change. And as we know from the headlines and hashtags, there is so much that needs to change: from sexual harassment and discrimination, to harmful cultural norms like child marriage and female genital mutilation, to unjust and unequal practices that penalize working women.

But changing the world as it is requires imagining the world as it should be–a world where women have the same economic, political, and social status as men. It’s the kind of world I want to live in and that I want my two pre-school aged daughters to grow up in. But more importantly, it is a world where fewer children die of preventable causes like malnutrition and more of them get a stronger start to life.

We know this because a woman’s status affects how well she and her children fare. It affects whether she and her children have enough to eat, whether she can get the care she and her children need and whether she and her children will have a healthy future. I would argue, a woman’s status in society affects the kind of future we will all have.

Too many women—whether they work harvesting crops in rural Kenya or stocking store shelves in rural Kentucky—struggle to earn enough to feed their families. In a world where women are paid fairly for their work and have the same economic opportunities as men, there would be fewer children suffering from hunger. This is born out in the research that shows that if women farmers in Africa had the same rights to land as men and equal access to markets, training and other resources, there would be between 100 and 150 million fewer people going hungry. Studies also show that that men and women use household resources differently with women typically spending more on children’s nutrition, health care and education.

A woman who is herself healthy and empowered is better able to give her child a strong start to life. In many of the poorer parts of the world, young children who are malnourished are very often born to women or girls who themselves are malnourished. This intergenerational cycle–wherein malnourished girls become malnourished mothers who give birth to babies who are malnourished, born too small or born too soon–is hard to break without greater attention to the health, nutrition and well-being of girls and women. Breaking the cycle also requires that the pernicious practice of child marriage, which deprives girls of their potential, is ended once and for all.

A society that values women as it does men would not think twice about ensuring a woman’s health care needs are met. Pregnancy would not be something health insurers could charge women more for or could use to deny women coverage. In fact, prenatal, childbirth and post-partum services would be considered absolutely essential—because they are, and not just for women themselves. A world where women have access to comprehensive health services before, during and after the birth of a child is a better world for everybody. There would be fewer babies born prematurely or at a low birth weight—conditions which put children at a developmental and health disadvantage and cost health systems billions of dollars each year. Maternal mortality rates, which remain unacceptably high in the U.S. and in many parts of the world, would drop. With fewer women dying in childbirth and suffering from childbirth-related complications, more children would thrive. Women would have support to start out breastfeeding—a practice considered so critical that UNICEF recently highlighted it as the most important way to improve child survival.  And they would be able to get the help they need to deal with depression and other serious mental health conditions that can have a devastating effect on women and their families. Emerging research shows a strong link between depression in mothers and stunted development in young children, which in turn has a lasting impact on children’s ability to learn and rise out of poverty.

When women have the same power and status as men, caring for children becomes a shared responsibility that society values. Generous paid leave policies for by both mothers and fathers working outside the home would become the norm. With job-protected paid time off to care for their babies, women who choose to breastfeed are able to do so for longer. This means more children get the unique and powerful brain-building and immunological benefits of breastmilk and more mothers have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions. There is a preponderance of evidence showing that breastfeeding saves lives, gives women and children a healthier future, and saves countries billions of dollars in health care costs. Yet most countries lack sufficient paid parental leave, policies to protect breastfeeding, and investments in healthcare systems support for nursing mothers, and thus fail to value and support women’s decision to breastfeed.

There is no question in my mind that a world where women enjoy the same rights and status as men would be a healthier and more just world. With fresh urgency and new-found fierceness, the global movement for women’s rights and equality can reshape the world as we know it into a place where every child—regardless of whether they are born a boy or a girl—has an equal chance of reaching their full potential.

Guest Post: Conquering Nutrition Myths in Myanmar – Breastfeeding #Marchis4Nutrition

In honor of National Nutrition Month in March, 1,000 Days is amplifying the critical role the world’s mothers play in nourishing the next generation through our annual online #Marchis4Nutrition campaign. Throughout the month, we will also be highlighting stories from our partners. Follow along and get involved on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #Marchis4Nutrition.

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. They work in 120 countries around the world to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Save the Children does whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share.

Save the Children works in many communities with mothers such as Ms. La Min to provide robust health and nutrition programs that save children’s lives and ensure they grow up healthy.

This is Ms. La Min’s story from Myanmar.

I thought that formula was better than my own breast milk because I had very limited knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding – and also because of marketing by the formula companies.

They claim that formula is good for my child’s IQ and every mother wants to give the best to their child. Therefore, I thought it should not be a problem if I cannot breastfeed, because I can afford to buy formula instead. So I choose formula against my own breast milk.

Then, I realized that my child was getting sick at least two times a month and I needed to bring her to the hospital very frequently while I was giving formula to her. Her immunity was very low. I started thinking that something is going wrong. Later on, I became more aware about the benefits of breastfeeding and that “Breast milk is the best” by reading educational materials.

I thought formula was better for my baby’s IQ because of the marketing and because I didn’t have appropriate knowledge before. Moreover, every mother I saw at the antenatal clinic said that formula is better for children’s IQ. Then, I became to believe in formula.

Infant formula is heavily marketed at hospitals and at baby counters in shopping centers. When I went shopping to prepare for my delivery, I saw so many different formulas. Whenever I visited the hospital or shopping centers I saw promotional messages everywhere. They say that they have Dumex and Similac. They also say that Similac is more expensive but that is because it is the best. Sale attendants told to every mother like that. Every mother also say that Similac is good.

When I delivered my baby, I spent time with a nurse from the hospital because I didn’t have experience with child caring. The nurse said to me “You don’t need to breastfeed. Formula is better for your baby to be strong and have good IQ.” That was also one of the reasons I trusted in formula.

The nurses themselves are believing the wrong things because of those companies. Not only nurses but also many doctors. I was even shout at by a doctor for not giving formula to my baby. When they weighed my baby, the doctor said that my baby’s weight was below what it should be – and he said it was because I quitted the formula. I replied that I quitted because my lactation consultant told me that I don’t need to give formula, my breast milk is the best.

I want to know everything about breastfeeding. I have known most of the breastfeeding information for a mother-writer, so now I want to help other mothers. What I feel very sad about is that people from my native town believes my baby is smart because I gave her formula. Actually, it is not because of formula. It’s because of other measures such as how I’m taking care of her. I find it very difficult to explain my friends from home town.

Another story is in Yangon, in my neighborhood, there is a mother who operates a photo-copy shop. She can breastfeed well. One day, when her baby was about 3 or 4 months old, she told to me that she is very sad because she cannot afford buying formula. I asked her “Is it because you have no breast milk?” She said “No, I have enough breast milk. I want to give formula because every other mothers are giving formula.” I told them that breast milk is the best but they don’t believe me. The messages from the advertisements are nailed in their head.

I feel really sad because my husband still wants to give formula to our daughter because he wants her to be a big baby. In the battle of breastfeeding – the doctor and my husband are on the formula’s side and I’m the only one on the side of breast milk. We are always fighting. It’s very disappointing.

Guest Post: Conquering Nutrition Myths in Myanmar – Breastfeeding #Marchis4Nutrition

In honor of National Nutrition Month in March, 1,000 Days is amplifying the critical role the world’s mothers play in nourishing the next generation through our annual online #Marchis4Nutrition campaign. Throughout the month, we will also be highlighting stories from our partners. Follow along and get involved on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #Marchis4Nutrition.

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. They work in 120 countries around the world to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Save the Children does whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share.

Save the Children works in many communities with mothers such as Ms. La Min to provide robust health and nutrition programs that save children’s lives and ensure they grow up healthy.

This is Ms. La Min’s story from Myanmar.

I thought that formula was better than my own breast milk because I had very limited knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding – and also because of marketing by the formula companies.

They claim that formula is good for my child’s IQ and every mother wants to give the best to their child. Therefore, I thought it should not be a problem if I cannot breastfeed, because I can afford to buy formula instead. So I choose formula against my own breast milk.

Then, I realized that my child was getting sick at least two times a month and I needed to bring her to the hospital very frequently while I was giving formula to her. Her immunity was very low. I started thinking that something is going wrong. Later on, I became more aware about the benefits of breastfeeding and that “Breast milk is the best” by reading educational materials.

I thought formula was better for my baby’s IQ because of the marketing and because I didn’t have appropriate knowledge before. Moreover, every mother I saw at the antenatal clinic said that formula is better for children’s IQ. Then, I became to believe in formula.

Infant formula is heavily marketed at hospitals and at baby counters in shopping centers. When I went shopping to prepare for my delivery, I saw so many different formulas. Whenever I visited the hospital or shopping centers I saw promotional messages everywhere. They say that they have Dumex and Similac. They also say that Similac is more expensive but that is because it is the best. Sale attendants told to every mother like that. Every mother also say that Similac is good.

When I delivered my baby, I spent time with a nurse from the hospital because I didn’t have experience with child caring. The nurse said to me “You don’t need to breastfeed. Formula is better for your baby to be strong and have good IQ.” That was also one of the reasons I trusted in formula.

The nurses themselves are believing the wrong things because of those companies. Not only nurses but also many doctors. I was even shout at by a doctor for not giving formula to my baby. When they weighed my baby, the doctor said that my baby’s weight was below what it should be – and he said it was because I quitted the formula. I replied that I quitted because my lactation consultant told me that I don’t need to give formula, my breast milk is the best.

I want to know everything about breastfeeding. I have known most of the breastfeeding information for a mother-writer, so now I want to help other mothers. What I feel very sad about is that people from my native town believes my baby is smart because I gave her formula. Actually, it is not because of formula. It’s because of other measures such as how I’m taking care of her. I find it very difficult to explain my friends from home town.

Another story is in Yangon, in my neighborhood, there is a mother who operates a photo-copy shop. She can breastfeed well. One day, when her baby was about 3 or 4 months old, she told to me that she is very sad because she cannot afford buying formula. I asked her “Is it because you have no breast milk?” She said “No, I have enough breast milk. I want to give formula because every other mothers are giving formula.” I told them that breast milk is the best but they don’t believe me. The messages from the advertisements are nailed in their head.

I feel really sad because my husband still wants to give formula to our daughter because he wants her to be a big baby. In the battle of breastfeeding – the doctor and my husband are on the formula’s side and I’m the only one on the side of breast milk. We are always fighting. It’s very disappointing.